Great quote: “People are always amazed by how much free time I have. They’re also amazed that I don’t know who Ally McBeal is. Frankly, I’m amazed that they can’t make the connection (Robert Wenzlaff).” There’s a parallel with Eastern religions: it’s funny how Westerners (A) don’t know much about Eastern religions (B) think Eastern religions are somehow peaceful (C) don’t see the connection between A and B. I’ve talked about mysticism causing violence. Today it’s Hinduism’s turn:
- Most know about the caste system, but underestimate its brutality. It still keeps hundreds of millions in the gutter. Literally: take a look at the diver caste whose hereditary occupation (since they’re untouchables) is to swim in sewage canals fixing them. The image at the top is of one such unfortunate (22,000 die in the sewers yearly from gas poisoning etc).
- For an insight into how divisive the caste system is, check out Bharat Matrimony (a matchmaking site with a formidable 12 million profiles). The search form assumes you’re seeking a very specific race/caste — and there thousands. A racial mystic’s wet dream.
- Speaking of which, the Nazis considered the Germans as descendants of the allegedly-superior Aryans (conquerors of India). Today many Hindus affirm the connection & claim Hindu superiority over non-Hindus. They read Mein Kampf as a solution to Indian problems. They can’t be dismissed as the fringe: they’ve been intimately connected with mainstream Indian politics (including the ruling party) for decades.
- During the Delhi riots (after Indira Ghandi’s assassination by a Sikh) about 4000 Sikhs were killed by Hindu mobs as revenge. Children were stuffed into tyres, doused with petrol and set alight. Politicians actively participated, whipping the crowd into a frenzy of religio-nationalist superiority. Sikh families were identified using the official electoral roll.
- Pogroms against other minorities, eg. Muslims, are also common. In Ahmedabad in 2002, 5000 were killed. The riots are accompanied by police apathy (or explicit participation).
- There’s great violence between castes: entire villages of lower castes in Bihar have been massacred by thugs who hate “uppity Untouchables”.
- Two great books on all this: The End of India by Khushwant Singh and The Age of Kali by William Dalrymple. From the second book:
The strength of caste feeling can be horrifying. Bhera Ram is a charming old man of the Bishnoi caste. He has ebullient moustaches, has never touched alcohol and is strictly vegetarian. He has 18 grandchildren, readily offers tea to visitors and smiles amiably as he chats about the harvest. Yet when I mentioned the plan to reserve government jobs for the lower castes, Bhera Ram narrowed his eyes.
“In the old days, under the Maharajah, everyone knew their place…how can a sweeper be my equal?”
[...]“Would you let a Harijan come in to your house?”
“If a bungi ever tried to come near my house I would beat him with my shoe, then I would kill him,” said Bhera Ram without hesitation.
People often say fanatics “pervert” religious teachings. I think Hinduism shows this isn’t true. It separates people into superior and inferior castes. Karma means lower castes deserve everything they get (they were bad in a prior life). It idealises India’s mythological past and sees the land of India as “holy” — laying the groundwork for a bigoted nationalism.
The extremists aren’t perverting Hinduism, they’re taking it to its logical conclusion.